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Toy dealer’s job is child’s play

Barbie and Ken’s “Little Theatre” playset from the 1960s.

A motorized, jumping rabbit from Japan.

A puzzle from the 1970s TV show “Space: 1999.”

A toy collector and dealer from Florida who calls himself the “Toy Scout” inspected these and other vintage toys Thursday in a meeting room of an Amherst hotel off Interstate 290, the Youngmann Highway.

Joel Magee wants your old toys, and he’ll sift through the gems and duds brought to him out of the basements and attics of Western New York. He’ll hand you cash for the ones he can sell.

While some people think an old toy has to be in its original box and in perfect condition to have any value, that’s not the case.

“We’ll actually fix this,” Magee said, holding the upper half of a talking G.I. Joe figure from the 1970s with blond, fuzzy hair. “That’s a lot of what we do is repairing things.”

Magee, who will set up shop in the Courtyard by Marriott on Sheridan Drive every day through Monday, offers free appraisals even if he doesn’t buy your stuff.

After only a few hours on Thursday, boxes of toys and other items lined the floor along three of the room’s four walls.

Joe Yarborough of North Tonawanda brought a box of old beer signs and trays, including glasses from the former Iroquois Brewery in Buffalo, for Magee to consider.

Yarborough, who said he’s been cleaning out his home, said his daughter didn’t seem interested in the items.

“I figured the hell with it. If I can get some money for it,” he said.

John Cacicia of Lockport carried in a toy horse, an old scooter and some metal toy trucks. He said he’ll be happy to get $100 or $200 for the stuff he found cleaning out his basement.

“It’s better than having it sit down there and get zero,” Cacicia said.

The most popular vintage toys today include “Star Wars” items, Hot Wheels and character figures, like Indiana Jones, Transformers, G.I. Joes and Masters of the Universe. Other popular items include Barbie dolls, Tonka trucks, western characters as well as most things TV- or movie-related, Magee said.

Magee showed off a Chewbacca figure in its original packaging from 1977, when the first “Star Wars” film came out. Originally there were only a dozen characters made into figures; more characters were introduced once the film became popular.

“And you can tell because it’s on a 12-back card,” he said. “They didn’t even have the figures made yet when they made this card, so they just took a picture and put them on the back of the (package). So these are very, very hard to find.”

Magee, who collects Disneyland-related items himself, is also shopping a TV pilot, featuring actor Butch Patrick, who played Eddie on “The Munsters.”

What’s the oldest toy Magee has encountered?

A toy King Louis coronation coach from the 1800s. It cost about $5,000. “It was beautiful,” he said.

In terms of the most rare modern-era toy, Magee got prototypes of 12-inch-tall Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader figures from someone who was an executive for Sears. The company got them for its catalog from the toy company Kenner.

Those sold for about $10,000.

Just after noon on Thursday, when nearly every chair in the room was filled with a would-be seller, Magee was smiling.

“This,” he said, “is like the perfect dream job.”